Sadako – The Story

Story Synopsis and Ballet Program Notes

Sadako Sasaki, a school girl in Hiroshima, contracted leukemia (the “atom bomb disease”) at age 11 from the atom bomb fallout (“black rain”) she had survived at age 2. Reminded of an old Japanese legend by a friend when she was first diagnosed, she strove to fold 1000 origami cranes in the belief that it would break her disease and give her long life. She didn’t get them all folded before she died at age 12. Her friends finished folding the origami cranes which were buried with her and began to dream of building a monument to Sadako and all of the children killed by the atom bomb.

Young people all over Japan helped collect money for the project. In 1958, a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane was unveiled in Hiroshima Peace Park. Sadako’s story has inspired people to fold paper cranes as a symbol of peace, and the Sadako memorial in the Peace Park stays layered with strings of origami cranes which school children all over the world have folded. Inscribed at the bottom of the statue is a poem: “This is our cry, This is our prayer, Peace in the world”

The ballet version of this true story, choreographed by Elizabeth Harano Adams in 2003 to music by George Winston and Michiko I. Pumpian, is not a literal re-telling of the story, but incorporates balletic pantomime and the danced dreams of Sadako to evoke the emotions of the principal characters: Sadako, her Mother and her Friend, as they face the terror of war, the pain of sickness and loss and ultimately hope for a brighter future. Beginning with the days of peace prior to the War, the ballet tells the story of the dropping of the Atomic Bomb, Sadako’s death and her friends’ commitment to passing a message of peace and remembrance throughout the world.

Attention has been paid to traditional Japanese tradition and folk art in the design of costumes and a portable “tori gate” from which hangs a dancing backdrop that at one point in the ballet “cries” cranes from a mushroom “cloud” characteristic of an atomic bomb explosion.

The cranes in the ballet are both real origami paper cranes folded during the dance, and 3 dancer cranes “visible” only to the audience and Sadako. Cranes in this ballet represent Sadako’s dreams for peace, health, and ultimately a peaceful place beyond death. In most performances, the ballet uses audience participation at the end to symbolize that the dream of world peace spreads from one person to another and it is up to each of us to carry that dream forward.

Special thanks to Dancing Cat Productions, which gave us permission to use George Winston’s music to raise awareness of the international peace movement that Sadako inspired. Also, thanks to Michiko Pumpian whose award winning bi-lingual song closes the program. This song was sung by an international peace choir of children at the Sadako statue in Hiroshima. These artists, and all who worked to make this ballet a reality, believe fervently that peace is the ultimate goal of civilized people, and that raising awareness of the terrible human price paid for war will ultimately create a more compassionate world.